Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 18:
The recent interim order of the Supreme Court on the PIL against illegal mining in Odisha has evoked sharp reactions from the Mining Engineers Association of India (MEAI), which has dashed off a letter to the President of India expressing serious concerns over it.
The Supreme Court order in Writ petition (Civil) No 114 of 2014 has directed the Odisha government not to allow operation in 26 out of 56 mines, comprising nearly half the mines in the state which produced approximately 35 million tonnes out of total of 76 million tonnes produced in last fiscal year.
In a release, the MEAI president Arijit Bagchi has said the order is harmful and damaging to the economy of the country and that different standards were used for the Goa and Odisha cases without spelling out the yardstick adopted by the honourable 3-member Forest Bench of the apex court.
Bagchi has argued that the delay by the state government to renew mining leases cannot be considered a valid reason for declaring mining operation either illegal or violation of rules as per the lease deed signed between the state governments and the lessees. He has also appealed to the Supreme Court to revisit the Goa order and modify it suitably in the light of the Odisha order.
” This is not to mean that amnesty should be given to those who have broken the law but only means that mining which is the starting point of job creation and wealth distribution in infrastructure, housing,shipping , transport , manufacturing industries etc should be allowed to start immediately in the case of Goa and suspension of mining withdrawn in Odisha in the 26 Mines, without compromising on loss recovery/ penalty proceedings where-ever applicable which in any case can continue as provided for invarious Acts including MMRD Act.” he said in the release.
The following are excerpts from the letter that MEAI has written to the President of India in the matter :
“The honourable SC Order dated 16th May 2014 is damaging and harmful to not only to the economy of the State of Orissa but also to the country as a whole. The Supreme Court order in Writ petition (Civil) No 114 of 2014 has directed the State Government not to allow operation in 26 out of 56 mines comprising nearly half the mines in the top state of Odhisa producing approximately 35 million tonnes out of total of 76 million tonnes produced in last fiscal year.
“The Court in Goa order dt 21st April 2014 in Writ Petition No 435 of 2014 had said that: Sub rule (6) of Rule 24A of the MC Rules regarding deemed renewal cannot apply to a renewal under sub-section (3) of section 8 of the MMDR Act because the renewal under this provision cannot be made without express orders of the state Government recording reasons for renewal in the interest of mineral development. Thus lease in Goa expired on 22.11.2007 and Mining after 22.1.2007 was illegal hence the order dt. 10.09.2012 suspending mining in Goa and the order dt.14.09.2012 suspending the EC cannot be quashed.
“In the case of Orissa, Honourable Supreme Court [SC] while directing the State Government not to allow mining in 26 Mines has neither fixed the date of expiry of leases after 1st renewal nor declared the mining since such retrospective date as “ illegal Mining” as declared in the Case of Goa . The SC has held the operation of the leases were a “violation of law” considering the language of Section 8(3) of MMDR Act 1957. Further SC have also not deprived the lessees in Orissa of their entitlement to the entire sale value of inventory of the excavated ores lying in Mines, Stockyards, jetties, ports unlike in Goa where Supreme Court have deprived the lessees of the inventory of Iron Ore declaring the State Government as the owner and ordered e-auction by the State Government and distribution of proceeds as per the method mentioned in the order dated 21st April 2014.
“In other words although mines in Orissa and Goa are both in their 2nd renewal, SC have expired the Mining leases in Goa beyond the 1st renewal with retrospective effect declaring mining conducted beyond first renewal as “Illegal Mining”— as if without a valid Mining lease .
“In the case of Orissa, SC has not expired the mining leases beyond the 1st renewal and declared their leases as still valid and considered mining during the period after the 1st Renewal as “violation of the law”. Thus the Supreme Court has used different Rules while delivering Judgment for Odisha and Goa for reasons which are not clear.
“Mining beyond the first Renewal cannot be declared as “Illegal Mining” nor “Violation of the law” , considering the language of Section 4, which states that “No person shall undertake mining operations except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a Mining lease “ and considering the language of terms and condition in Part IX (4 ) of the lease deed in Form k as per Rule 31 of MCR under Section 13 which states that : if the fulfillment by the lessee/lessees of any terms and condition of the lease be delayed, “from any happening” which the lessee /lessees “could not reasonably prevent or control”, the period of such delay shall be added to the period fixed by the lease and such failure shall not give the Central or the State Government any claim against the lessee/lessees or deemed a breach of this lease.
“In Goa and Orissa, lease holders both had applied for renewal and it was the responsibility of the State Government to follow the procedure ought to be followed for first or Second renewals as the case maybe. But this did not happen. What is that lessees in Goa and Odisha could have reasonably done to prevent or control the delay in renewal of the lease or signing of the fresh lease deed ? Can delay to execute fresh lease deed deemed to be a breach of any lease condition by the lessee which calls for not allowing mining by the State Government?
“The honorable Supreme Court has very rightly pointed out that lessees have the statutory right of first renewal and thereafter they have right only to apply for further renewal under Section 8(3) of MMRD Act and the State has the power to renew after opinion is formed and recorded.
“However, should failure by the State Government to timely renew mining lease deeds bestow the State Government of Goa the entitlement to claim Reward equivalent to the entire value of inventory of excavated ores as elaborated in Goa Order ? But not allow the State Government of Orissa with similar entitlement? Or should not the delay entitle the lessee the Right to continue legitimate mining in Goa and Orissa , depriving the Central or the State Government from making any claim against the lessee/lessees on account of any breach what-so-ever of the terms and conditions considering the language of Section 4, Section 13, Rule 31 and the legal document signed with the State Government explained above notwithstanding, the language of Section 8(3) under MMRD Act.
“This is not to mean that amnesty should be given to those who have broken the law but only means that mining which is the starting point of job creation and wealth distribution in infrastructure, housing,shipping , transport , manufacturing Industries etc should be allowed to start immediately in the case of Goa and suspension of mining withdrawn in Orissa in the 26 Mines, without compromising on loss recovery/ penalty proceedings where-ever applicable which in any case can continue as provided for invarious Acts including MMRD Act.”